This is what I would ask you if I was looking for your approval.
As much as I am opening to listening to what you think, I have to make my own decisions and work out what is ‘right’ for me. You cannot tell me what is right for me and if you think you know or you can, you are being disrespectful.
We cannot tell others how they feel
This is the same for our children. We can ask them instead. If they don’t know, we can help them and make suggestions but if we ask and rest into the uncomfortable silence, the answer will come. I’ve seen it too many times in my work and so believe me when I tell you it will.
People who seek approval (take it from a recovering approval seeker) did not get that when they were younger. How can you validate your child whilst respecting yourself and respecting your child’s point of view?
If Little Smiley came home from school and was upset because the teacher had told her off for talking in class, I have choices: I could:
- Tell her off (make her wrong again – she has already been told off once)
- Remind her of the rules (judge her for forgetting and make her wrong for that)
- Ask her why she did that when she knows it is wrong (make her wrong and react with my fear of worrying about what others think)
- Get mad on her behalf (robbing her of her learning opportunity and any future opportunities for her to come to me when she needs support)
- Step in and rescue her by going up the school and showing that teacher she can’t push my little girl around (making the teacher wrong – blame and making Little Smiley feel as if she can’t sort it out herself)
Or I could:
- Thank her for sharing with me and acknowledge her honesty and courage
- Empathise with the situation she was in and how she is feeling
- See the best in her and know that she wouldn’t have done something like that on purpose
- Hold the space for her while she shows those vulnerable feelings to me
- Ask her questions about what happened and listen to the answers without judgement
- Summarise her experience and help her learn from it ‘it sounds like that was quite tough for you but you handled it well and you are finding your way with that teacher.’
There are so many teachable moments that could make your child feel wrong or invalidated.
When you validate your child and are on their side, you can stop making them wrong. You don’t have to make yourself wrong either.
To be vulnerable takes courage
Especially when it comes to their feelings. Our feelings are never wrong and anybody who is uncomfortable with our feelings, is not somebody who deserves our trust. To be vulnerable with somebody takes courage and who we choose to share that space with is massive.
I see children still being punished for having feelings and it saddens me deeply. To be real is to be human and there is no shame or no need to be punished for that.
How does it feel to be ‘wrong’ for you?
When you make a mistake what do you need? Go on, write it down and put it somewhere you can see it. I’m guessing you already feel bad and you have already learnt the lesson but you want to reach out and share it with somebody, so they can tell you, you are still OK (maybe your behaviour was a bit off but we are all human and make mistakes).
Remember you are your child’s mirror and you reflect back to them who they are. Granted we spend too much time correcting, criticising and complaining to our children. So we have to balance that out with showing them their good stuff EVERY DAY!
Love Smiley x